By Kristin Cashore
QUICK, ENTERTAINING READ. For some reason, this book makes me think of The Princess Bride, and I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it’s something about the name “Po,” or the world-building. My mind works in strange ways. Anyways.
Katsa lives in a folktale land where people have “graces,” which make them gifted with certain abilities. Such as killing. Katsa can kill a man with her bare hands, and as such is enlisted as the King’s personal thug. However, then she meets Prince Po, and her world changes forever.
Katsa can be preachy and self-righteous. Po is adorable. The enemy, King Leck, who is graced with the ability to control peoples’ minds, is creepy and reminded me of Kilgrave from Marvel’s Jessica Jones TV series. It’s a fun adventure, and the characters are memorable. I would recommend this book out of all the series. The other two books, Fire and Bitterblue, feature main characters that are much more passive than Katsa and the story lines aren’t as captivating. Even if you don’t like Katsa’s bluntness, at least she’s entertaining and moves pieces around the chessboard.
I liked that Cashore took a risk and brought up how relevant marriage is to “true love”. Katsa refuses to marry Po, even though she is “truly in love” with him and wants to spend the rest of their lives together. This brings up a question about what the role of marriage plays in society, and what it means today v. medieval settings. It’s interesting to think about.
I would recommend this book in the series because of its tight, focused story line. However, it is the typical fantasy adventure of goodies facing down the evil mind-controlling king. Overall it is an enjoyable read, and I wish Fire and Bitterblue had lived up to Graceling’s spark.
Recommended for fans of: William Goldman, Diana Wynne Jones, and Tamora Pierce
Upcoming Book Review: Raised by Sharon Stevenson